Galveston’s unique and colorful past gives Galvestonians a lot to brag about. Our coastal town is home to many first and oldest businesses in the state of Texas.

We had the first post office, insurance company, private bank, naval base, hospital, grocery store, telephone, opera house, medical college, golf course, public library, and the list goes on ... including the first law firm, Mills Shirley.

When you say chamber of commerce — ribbon cuttings, countless meetings, a golf tournament or an extravagant, over-the-top annual meeting may come to mind, but chambers of commerce stand for much more. They stand for the inclusion and success of all.

The Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce, chartered by the Republic of Texas in 1845, is Texas’ oldest chamber of commerce in continuous operation. Some of its first members include The Daily News, the state’s oldest daily newspaper; the Port of Galveston, the oldest port in the Gulf of Mexico; and the Galveston-Texas City Pilots.

Through strong partnerships with the City of Galveston, Galveston Economic Development Partnership, Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees/Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Galveston chamber plays an instrumental role in the economic growth of the region, works diligently to ensure a sustainable and vibrant business environment and advocates for the best interest of local businesses.

Several diverse committees exist to act as a hub to discuss critical issues affecting the community and businesses. The Advocacy Committee fights at the local, state and federal level to maintain a regulatory system so that local businesses thrive, and the community grows.

The Galveston chamber recently joined forces with 13 other coastal chambers to oppose Texas Windstorm Insurance Association’s most recent attempt to raise rates by 10 percent. The chamber also is closely monitoring the city’s Land Development Regulations to ensure a positive, and pro-active business environment.

With the vision and guidance of the chamber’s devoted president and CEO, Gina Spagnola, the chamber’s Legislative Committee recently hosted state legislators, city and county officials for a four-day coastal legislative tour to showcase Galveston’s impact on the nation’s economy.

The Galveston chamber also has a long history of support for education in the region. The Education Committee cultivates a quality and qualified workforce and equips future leaders and businesses with resources and tools to be successful.

A few education initiatives include Adventures in Maritime Careers, the young professional’s group, C-Crewe, Lemonade Day Galveston County and the annual Galveston Women’s Conference, which welcomes over 800 women to Galveston and celebrates the leadership and service of women across the region.

As the 2018 chair, and on behalf of the Galveston chamber board and staff, thank you to the 800 chamber members for your investment in the community. Chamber membership gives your business a competitive edge and we are proud to be your voice.

Thank you also to the professional staff and volunteers that work every day to make our community a great place to live, work and play.

If you’re not a member, call 409-763-5326 to learn more.

Fred D. Raschke is Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce’s chairman for 2018.

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